Zimmerman's Jeff Nielsen lost in the state semifinals, then beat Rogers' Todd Klemz in OT in a match with some controversy. Nielsen will go for third place Saturday while Klemz and Elk River's Mitch Hauge have fifth-place matches.
M itch Hauge of the Elks grabbed an ankle just before turning Brad Overby of Prior Lake for a takedown late in the match. Hauge won 3-0 to secure a spot in the top six. He's 2-2 at state and will wrestle for fifth place on Saturday. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Jeff Nielsen of Zimmerman will wrestle for third place in the state tournament Saturday after a harrowing and somewhat controversial overtime win over Todd Klemz of Rogers on Friday.
Klemz and Elk River's Mitch Hauge will each wrestle in fifth-place matches as the four-day tournament concludes at the Xcel Energy Center. Nielsen and Klemz are in Class AA 189 pounds and Hauge is in Class AAA 171 pounds.
Todd Klemz (black and blue) of Rogers made a takedown of Zimmerman's Jeff Nielsen that would have given him a 7-5 win, but officials ruled that time had run out. Nielsen then won via takedown in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
Nielsen, who had advanced with two close deicisons, was pinned in the semifinals Friday by Nathan Schmitz (43-1) of Perham. Nielsen trailed 2-1 after one period, then was cradled to the mat in 2:46.
That dropped Nielsen into the lower bracket against Klemz, who had won twice in wrestlebacks after losing in the first round. Klemz routed Jordan Reker of Adrian 16-5 earlier Friday, getting back points three times, to clinch one of the top six slots for which medals are awarded.
Nielsen had a 5-1 lead on Klemz in the final minute, making two takedowns. But Nielsen had trouble finishing. He was penalized for stalling, then another point for a push against Klemz off the mat, then gave up an escape to Klemz, and then got another one-point stalling penalty, tying the score 5-5.
The rejuvenated Klemz made a shoot in the final seconds and toppled Nielsen for an apparent match-winning takedown. Klemz raised his arms jubilantly, thinking he had won. But the officials weren't so sure. While the wrestlers fretted on the mat and awaited the verdict, the officials conferred for about a minute, then ruled the score was still 5-5.
Todd Klemz (rear) and Jeff Nielsen awaited word on whether Klemz's apparent takedown would count. There was confusion because the "towel-tapper" may not have tapped the ref at the right time.
In the overtime, Nielsen went back on the offensive and stuck a fireman's carry on Klemz for a takedown, winning the match 7-5.
At issue was the point at which the official was tapped on the back with a rolled-up towel, which tells the official that time has elapsed. As is usually the case, it was a young boy entrusted to do this. The towel-tappers almost always tap the ref just as time expires. At any rate, it seldom makes any difference if they're a split second off. But obviously this time it was a crucial issue.
As the Rogers coaches saw it, Klemz had made the takedown before the zeroes appeared on the clock. (The Star News reporter/photographer had the same impression.)
Matt Leshovsky, the Rogers coach, said the explanation he got was that the boy tapped the official with the towel a little too early. The officials, thinking that time had already expired, signaled that the period was over, just before the takedown was made.
"And they said that's what they had to go by," said Leshovsky. The coach said it was "heartbreaking" for a senior who had worked hard to get that far and have a state tournament match decided that way, but accepted the explanation.
Matt Kraus, Zimmerman coach, said it was "the right call."
Nielsen also beat Klemz by a single point in a conference dual meet this year.
A year ago, Klemz lost more decisively to state champion Zac Nielsen, Jeff's older brother, both in a dual meet and at the state meet.
Klemz was visibly upset after the match Friday, thinking he'd finally beaten one of the formidable Nielsens, only to have it reversed.
On Saturday, Klemz, a senior with 102 career wins and a 32-7 mark this year, will close his prep career in the fifth-place match against Tony Larson (32-10) of Dassel-Cokato.
Nielsen (26-3), a sophomore, will wrestle for third place against Kody Kramer (35-6) of Murray County Central.
Hauge, Elk River senior with a 92-83 career record and 24-11 this year, clinched a medal Friday by winning 3-1 over a tall, willowy Prior Lake wrestler, Brad Overby. It was 0-0 after two. Hauge started the third period down and worked his way free with about a minute left for a 1-0 lead. He had spent much of the match on top of his lanky opponent unable to turn him, but finally succeeded in doing so with about 15 seconds left for a 3-0 lead.
But Hauge, who's 2-2 at the state meet, lost later in the day to Logan Hansen of Albert Lea, 3-1. That put Hauge in the fifth-place match on Saturday against Luke Erickson (27-11) of Bloomington Jefferson.
The third- and fifth-place matches will all be held in a session starting at noon.